How does one actually make partner?

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codeman92190
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How does one actually make partner?

Post by codeman92190 » Sat Apr 28, 2018 9:13 am

The title says it all. I was a paralegal at a V20 firm in NYC. The prevailing wisdom seemed to be that incoming Associates shouldn't even think about making partner. Or at least that it was so rare that they shouldn't make it their Plan A.

This seemed odd, if only because I was surrounded by T6 superstars who were constantly grinding away. If they weren't going to make partner, then who was?

So I guess that is the big question: who actually ends up making partner? What are the things that actually set someone apart at V20 firm (or even further down)? Is sticking it out, constantly making or surpassing your 2000 billable hours target, and making meaningful contributions to big cases not enough? What else goes into it? And, given that the biggest factor is probably attrition or burnout, how many people that actually WANT to be a partner (and not just when they show up) end up not getting it?

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Toni
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by Toni » Sat Apr 28, 2018 12:17 pm

As you know, when you join or lateral into a firm they immediately set you up on their partner track. It’s up to you to check all the boxes....do great work, meet/exceed billables, work well with others (especially the group head) and be highly valued by the clients.

Somewhat surprising is that not everyone cares to make partner. If not for the lure of a hefty seven-figure income this position is not everyone’s idea of a dream job (actually, just the opposite). For those who want the position but fall short, the reasons obviously vary from firm politics to a [sincere] belief that your lawyering is ordinary, no book, and in the end, no one is strongly advocating for you. To answer your question, great lawyering, book, and advocates.

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Johannes
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by Johannes » Sat Apr 28, 2018 12:23 pm

codeman92190 wrote:
Sat Apr 28, 2018 9:13 am
The title says it all. I was a paralegal at a V20 firm in NYC. The prevailing wisdom seemed to be that incoming Associates shouldn't even think about making partner. Or at least that it was so rare that they shouldn't make it their Plan A. Don't you think if a bunch of smart cookies are coming to this conclusion it has merit?

This seemed odd, if only because I was surrounded by T6 superstars who were constantly grinding away. If they weren't going to make partner, then who was When 5-10% of people who start in biglaw make partner, you're on the margins and it's tough to find a rule or whatever that applies. It's a lot of luck.?

So I guess that is the big question: who actually ends up making partner? People that are lucky and get into a group with a good mentor, in an industry that ends up booming at the right time, and at a firm that ends up being able to cross sell and market to clients. What are the things that actually set someone apart at V20 firm (or even further down)? Is sticking it out, constantly making or surpassing your 2000 billable hours targetI would be shocked of any partners that only averaged close to 2000 hours per year over their 10-15 year run before pship. This number would be more like 2400/year billable with much more non-billable hours., and making meaningful contributions to big cases not enough? It's tough to make meaningful contributions to cases in biglaw because the dollars are so large, only partners handle anything meaningful most of the time. This is where luck comes in to beat the catch-22.What else goes into it? Clients obviously. YOu have to have a book of business. Clients have to trust you, which is usually done by getting a book from a mentor above you... so you also have to be handpicked by the mentor above you to get you that client contact, AND the client has to love you. That can take a lot of time and trust to establish. And, given that the biggest factor is probably attrition or burnoutthis is not the biggest factor. It's that you are told by the firm at a certain pooint whether you are pship material. If you are not pship material, which almost everyoen is not, most people "burnout" because they start wanting to get to a place in their career at 35-40 years old where they can feel settled and not transient, so they go in-house/govt/solo etc. , how many people that actually WANT to be a partner (and not just when they show up) end up not getting itTons want to be a partner. I probably know (very well to know thier reviews and firm ranking) 30-40 senior associates at this point spread across multiple firms that want to be partner who've all been told they have a chance/are on the right trajectory. I'd put the over under for this (let's just call them 30 so we have a baseline percentage in mind) at 3.5. That's right around a 10% chance of making partner as a senior associate. THere's just terrible odds there.
And if they miss (you keep getting put up every year for a period of a long time), they will be 45ish and be trying to start a new career with a family that most likely dislikes them. Could lead to viewing yourself as a failure. To go for pship, you have to put ALL YOUR EGGS in that basket, and if it doesnt work out, still rebound to think youve led a satisfying life on your terms rather than wasted the last 15 years of your life.
?

lolwat
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by lolwat » Sat Apr 28, 2018 4:47 pm

Above posts seem to cover all the bases. I think it comes down to (1) tons of hours, (2) book of business, (3) current partners pushing for you to become partner, (4) doing consistently top notch work, and (5) luck.

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proteinshake
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by proteinshake » Sun Apr 29, 2018 1:55 am

lolwat wrote:
Sat Apr 28, 2018 4:47 pm
Above posts seem to cover all the bases. I think it comes down to (1) tons of hours, (2) book of business, (3) current partners pushing for you to become partner, (4) doing consistently top notch work, and (5) luck.
how does this differ at smaller / more regional firms? some firms seem like partner is automatic if you just stay long enough.

bruh
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by bruh » Sun Apr 29, 2018 2:13 am

I think, aside from Johann alluding to this, the posts above really fail to mention how important it is to be in the right practice group in the right year(s). Even if you're a superstar bankruptcy associate, if the firm already has several junior, established, and rainmaking partners in that practice group and isn't looking to expand that practice area (but is instead, for example, looking into broadening its white-collar practice or M&A practice), you're just shit out of luck. Even if you were "on partner track" 6 or 7 years in, by year 8 or 9 your firm may have decided to move in a new direction w/r/t business strategy and your area of expertise just may not be as valued to the Firm--or atleast not valued enough to let you into the equity partnership.

Now you're looking at the possibility of maybe trying again next year while staying on as a senior associate, maybe coppin' an of counsel role, or maybe trying to lateral and try your luck somewhere else--all while still being the perfect associate and billing the same crazy hours that you've been doing for close to the last decade. Or you just decide to ditch biglaw altogether because uncertainty is a straight-up bitch.

anyway, to keep it short, idk how many partners out there wouldn't tell you that a large part of whether you make equity or not at a biglaw firm boils down to whether you're (one of) the all-star(s) in the right group(s) at the right time

lolwat
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by lolwat » Sun Apr 29, 2018 4:12 am

Right place/right time sorta falls under luck for me, but I totally agree. The reason it falls under my luck category is there’s nothing you can do about it. You can opt to work harder than other associates. You can (at least sometimes) choose to work your ass off to start building a book of business. You can (also at least sometimes) figure out what makes the partner(s) “tick” and get them to like and advocate for you. But there’s nothing you can do about whether you’re in the right practice group at the right time.
proteinshake wrote:
Sun Apr 29, 2018 1:55 am
lolwat wrote:
Sat Apr 28, 2018 4:47 pm
Above posts seem to cover all the bases. I think it comes down to (1) tons of hours, (2) book of business, (3) current partners pushing for you to become partner, (4) doing consistently top notch work, and (5) luck.
how does this differ at smaller / more regional firms? some firms seem like partner is automatic if you just stay long enough.
It’s all firm dependent, I think, since I’ve noticed smaller firms are anywhere on a spectrum of guaranteed partnership (if you aren’t fired/don’t quit) to never making anybody else partner other than the current name partners.

There’s one big difference I’ve perceived over the years and I’m not even sure if it’s 100% correct. I find biglaw tends to see anyone that isn’t a rainmaker as fungible, while smaller firms seem to value, say, consistency, stability, and loyalty a little more. Smaller firms seem to be more willing to make partners people who may not have a book of business but have proven themselves to be very capable (the kind of lawyers you’d be more likely to see as “of counsel” or non-equity partners at bigger firms that aren’t totally up or out). They don’t have a revolving door of attorneys coming in/out every year (they don’t hire huge SA classes—and in fact many smaller firms don’t hire any), and there’s costs and risks of bringing in new people, so if you’re doing solid work and the firm likes you, it’s probably better for them to just make you partner. It’s not like the rainmakers do all the day-to-day work themselves so they see the value in retaining the people who are good at it.

racejudicataOG

Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by racejudicataOG » Sun May 06, 2018 6:22 am

Book of business is overstated; particularly in big law. Sure, having good relationships with clients is huge...but having a true book of business is not necessary.

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freshy dog
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by freshy dog » Sun May 06, 2018 2:27 pm

racejudicataOG wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 6:22 am
Book of business is overstated; particularly in big law. Sure, having good relationships with clients is huge...but having a true book of business is not necessary.
I think this is practice dependent, but I agree - the majority of biglaw partners at my office seem to inherit the large clients that matter.

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Johannes
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by Johannes » Sun May 06, 2018 2:39 pm

Ive never seen a partner be made in biglaw without a book of business. Smallest book I’ve seen was about a $1M/yr with the hopes they’d be betting on them at the ground floor before they blew up.

Have seen plenty of people with $1M/year books get turned down for partnership as well.

lolwat
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by lolwat » Sun May 06, 2018 3:26 pm

freshy dog wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 2:27 pm
racejudicataOG wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 6:22 am
Book of business is overstated; particularly in big law. Sure, having good relationships with clients is huge...but having a true book of business is not necessary.
I think this is practice dependent, but I agree - the majority of biglaw partners at my office seem to inherit the large clients that matter.
The details are different but the concept is still the same—what you’re describing is a a type of “book of business.” If a large client sees that its favorite go-to partner at biglaw firm is retiring and never made a connection with anyone else at that firm, they’re more likely to shift the work going to that firm to a partner at another biglaw firm with whom they have a better ongoing relationship.

Basically, an associate/partner who inherits a large client is ensuring that client continues sending work to them—and therefore to the firm. And there is actually a possibility that if that associate/partner leaves, some work from that client might leave with them. For the most part clients don’t really hire law firms per se, they go to specific attorneys they have relationships with and are just confident that the law firm is good enough to provide the services needed.

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Toni
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by Toni » Sun May 06, 2018 3:42 pm

freshy dog wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 2:27 pm
....the majority of biglaw partners at my office seem to inherit the large clients that matter.
What are the odds of a senior associate inheriting a decent sized client? My guess is that the odds are slight ....I do not actually know.

codeman92190
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by codeman92190 » Sun May 06, 2018 3:44 pm

This is all very interesting. Is there an implication then that it is a bad idea to focus on building relationships with younger partners, because they won't be leaving you a book of business anytime soon?

Also, where building that business occurs outside of this kind of transfer . . . how exactly does it happen? As a low income / first gen student, I have an image in my head of well-connected, aristocratic associates reaching out to their wealthy family friends or college contacts for new clients, and then being the only ones who make partner, besides those who might inherit a book from someone else. How far from the truth is that? Admittedly I did go to an Ivy undergrad with a lot of rich peers, but I tended to stick around other low income / first gen students, which I think is fairly common.

masque du pantsu
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by masque du pantsu » Sun May 06, 2018 3:46 pm

I generally agree with the above and of course there are differences between firms practices. But, i can add a few nuances from my experience in a transactional practice in NYC biglaw.

First, doing good work and working hard are baseline but alone they are not sufficient. You also need to have a good reputation, project confidence, and be a person that partners and clients like and trust. For these, there is a strong element of luck (more on that below).

At some point around fourth or fifth year, partners will start signaling to you that htey think you have the potential to be partner if you stick with it and play your cards right. Just before i left, I had hit the point where this started happening in my annual reviews, at departmental happy hours, and in private conversations. And for example, on the work part, I was working enough to bill between 2800 and 3300 every year i was there (which i am not proud of; it sucked and it mostly happened because i didn't know how to protect myself, always wanted to please people and never figured out how to say "no"). This wasn't the minimum you needed to be working but it's at least one data point.

But i said before there is a strong element of luck. On the more obvious side, it helps to be in a booming practice area, and it depends in any event on how many people are in line ahead of you. I was in a practice area that made at least one partner from the NY office every year, and my rank and the ranks above me were thinning VERY rapidly due to departures, and even then, i would still have been facing a good five to seven years of everything continuing to go well, continuing to work hard, and even starting to work even harder.

A couple of less-obvious things that depend on luck: First, doing good work. It's not enough to do good work, people have to KNOW that you do good work, i.e. you have a good reputation. People say this means you can make no mistakes, which is not true, obviously you can make mistakes. But you can't make the wrong mistake in front of hte wrong person or your reputation can be torpedoed. Everyone is going to make mistakes. You need to be lucky enough to not have the wrong mistakes happen in front of the wrong people.

Second, mentors. You need to work with people who not only can advise you but also give you opportunities to stretch yourself. Some people will say "hey i think you can handle this even though you've never done it, you go lead this negotiation and i'll only jump in if you need me", etc., whereas others will micromanage the shit out of you because they can't let go. You can learn a lot from both people, but you need to be able to connect with the right people at some point and convince them to trust you with important things so that you can stretch and grow and build a reputation as someone who can do the second-order tasks that you need to do well to be successful as a senior associate and partner. If you can do that early, you're far better off. You need to have ability obviously, but it's also luck whether you even get the chance.

Third, clients. If you do most of your work for a couple of clients and they stop doing deals, obviously that's not great.

On the book of business point, at least in my practice area, nobody who made partner ever had a book of business. Even junior partners who were first minted didn't really have a book of business; they had started participating in pitch meetings as mid-level to senior associates and continued to do so as junior partners but nobody harbored any illusions that it was them that had landed the relationship rather than the senior partner who was mentoring them. Rather, you were made partner based on the firm's view of your POTENTIAL to build a book, but junior partners often still acted like senior associates until they started learning how to disengage, leave the legal work to the associates and start focusing on partner things. You basically needed to have a "potential" book of business, i.e. the partners had to perceive that clients trusted and respected you and that they could see (i) handing off their own clients to you AND (ii) you having hte potential to start bringing in your own.

I used to absolutely sneer at 0Ls, law students or junior associates who said they hoped to become a partner, and it wasn't because it's a hard path. Rather, it's because until you start living the life, you really have no idea whether it's even something you should want. None of hte partners i worked for lived easy lives. When they made partner, they usually worked MORE, they're lives were more difficult than they were the year before. Nothing changed. It wasn't some light at teh end of a long tunnel where you had "made it" and could relax; in order to be happy doing it you either needed to live and breathe M&A or you needed to accept being deeply, deeply dissatisfied with your life. Like a law student says "I think i can make partner", my (internal) reaction was "you fucking fool," not because it's hard but really because of how much ignorance of reality the attitude shows. If you live and breathe it, great. Most of hte partners i worked for loved their job, and it showed. But there's no way to tell whether you'll be that person until you start doing it.

masque du pantsu
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by masque du pantsu » Sun May 06, 2018 4:00 pm

codeman92190 wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 3:44 pm
This is all very interesting. Is there an implication then that it is a bad idea to focus on building relationships with younger partners, because they won't be leaving you a book of business anytime soon?

Also, where building that business occurs outside of this kind of transfer . . . how exactly does it happen? As a low income / first gen student, I have an image in my head of well-connected, aristocratic associates reaching out to their wealthy family friends or college contacts for new clients, and then being the only ones who make partner, besides those who might inherit a book from someone else. How far from the truth is that? Admittedly I did go to an Ivy undergrad with a lot of rich peers, but I tended to stick around other low income / first gen students, which I think is fairly common.
I think you build a relationship with as many people as you can. Senior associates, young partners, older partners. "Diversify yo' bonds" so to speak. Because you also don't want to hitch your wagon to one older partner who ends up retiring before you'r ready to be put up, and you be left with (i) no strong relationships with clients and (ii) no real advocates who would be on your side.

Don't worry about not being rich and connected. It is important that the partnership view you as someone who is trusted by clients, trusted by partners, and who has the potential to build and strengthen professional relationships. At least some of hte partners i worked with clearly saw me that way, and they all knew that i was not rich or well-connected. Very few people in my class were.

lolwat
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by lolwat » Sun May 06, 2018 4:57 pm

By the way, "partner" can mean so many things at any given firm that we might not always be talking about the same thing when we're talking about "making partner." There's obviously "junior" and "senior" partners, but there's also "equity" and "non-equity" partners at some firms, and there's probably other distinctions to be made too on a firm-by-firm basis. I would say a "book of business," however defined, is probably not a requirement at some places, while it may be at others. For example, I know of a firm that has several "partners," but really, only a few of them actually own the firm and bring in all the business. The others bring in very little (to no) business, and are "partners" only in title as what I perceive to be a marketing matter (i.e., "we have x partners who have done y") and justification for higher billing rates for those "partners" (i.e., "partner x will run your case and bill at $y rate, while associates abc will be assigned and bill at $z rate").

Stirfry
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by Stirfry » Tue May 08, 2018 11:03 am

Work at K&E for six years, profit

Anon poaster

Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by Anon poaster » Wed Jun 27, 2018 12:51 am

Question. How do you deal with a bitchass partner? The asshole told me to work on a motion about 2 weeks ago. I started drafting it and apparently the ass gave the assignment to someone else and forgot/didnt care enough to tell me. I only found out by chance after talking to the associate. I asked the partner and his response was "oh i thought u were busy." Im a junior who started not too long ago so i doubt it's a reflection of my work product.

Wtf is this chit.

classof2014
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by classof2014 » Wed Jun 27, 2018 9:40 am

codeman92190 wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 3:44 pm
This is all very interesting. Is there an implication then that it is a bad idea to focus on building relationships with younger partners, because they won't be leaving you a book of business anytime soon?

Also, where building that business occurs outside of this kind of transfer . . . how exactly does it happen? As a low income / first gen student, I have an image in my head of well-connected, aristocratic associates reaching out to their wealthy family friends or college contacts for new clients, and then being the only ones who make partner, besides those who might inherit a book from someone else. How far from the truth is that? Admittedly I did go to an Ivy undergrad with a lot of rich peers, but I tended to stick around other low income / first gen students, which I think is fairly common.
I wouldn’t focus my efforts on junior partners for other reasons—namely, their lack of influence and power within the firm. You want the person advocating for you to have pull. There are partners within my firm who could nearly single-handedly make someone partner. Of course, there are formalities to the process but if they decide someone is good enough, the rest of the partnership just agrees. You want the partners at the top in your corner. That being said, any advocate is a good advocate.
Last edited by classof2014 on Wed Jun 27, 2018 11:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

swing
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by swing » Wed Jun 27, 2018 11:00 am

Johannes wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 2:39 pm
Ive never seen a partner be made in biglaw without a book of business. Smallest book I’ve seen was about a $1M/yr with the hopes they’d be betting on them at the ground floor before they blew up.

Have seen plenty of people with $1M/year books get turned down for partnership as well.
I've heard that at Milbank you need at least $2 million/year to even be considered for junior partnership.

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barkschool
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Re: How does one actually make partner?

Post by barkschool » Wed Jul 04, 2018 2:11 pm

swing wrote:
Wed Jun 27, 2018 11:00 am
Johannes wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 2:39 pm
Ive never seen a partner be made in biglaw without a book of business. Smallest book I’ve seen was about a $1M/yr with the hopes they’d be betting on them at the ground floor before they blew up.

Have seen plenty of people with $1M/year books get turned down for partnership as well.
I've heard that at Milbank you need at least $2 million/year to even be considered for junior partnership.
THis seems standard even further down the am law list

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